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A slow burn radicalisation

Although we have had one of the most savage downturns since the 1930s, an analysis of the crisis would conclude that we have still not met its full political or social effects. Indeed, the whole experience has been dampened by fiscal stimulus and an air of artificial normality. Economists still call for green shoots and implore the broken totem of consumer spending and house prices to merge, giving a new impetus to the economy. Salient voices say that the model is broken, but ‘debt and spend’ is only postponing the inevitable.

Riots that have broken out were concentrated on particular countries where the elected authorities were particularly mendacious or incompetent: Iceland, Latvia etc…but they have tended to peter out. Action has been displaced by apathy, indifference and a mood of anti-politics as social democracy has withered on the vine. Disagree with much of the Left’s analysis, but they can smell the rot as the European elections attested:

What we are seeing in Britain and throughout Europe is the last death throes of historical social democracy that emerged from the split in the world workers movement after the Russian revolution. This does not of course mean that we shall see the early demise of the parties that originated in social democracy, but the project – in the early phase socialism via successive reforms and then pro-working class reforms within the framework of capitalism – is all but dead, and in any case nowhere the majority or the leadership of parties like the French SP or the SPD in Germany.

The social democratic Left may no longer have the institutions to mobilise disaffected voters and workers. Their most recent travails are based upon the migration of the disaffected to marginal parties more in tune with their attitudes and goals: euroscepticism in Britain, radical right in the Low countries or Austria, hard left and poujadiste in France.

What is left out of the equation is that the social, cultural and political reaction to a depression can take two years or more to surface in a slow burn radicalisation. Political crisis did not start to hit till 1931 with the sovereignty crises. Are we in the early stages of a new migration to the extremes; awaiting that tipping point?

39 comments to A slow burn radicalisation

  • mexicano

    Are we in the early stages of a new migration to the extremes; awaiting that tipping point? … Yes.

  • RPL

    Sadly, yes. History repeats itself; the first time as tragedy, the second as farce. If you believe Mark Twain, history may not repeat itself, but it has a tendency to rhyme. Buckle down, as I believe things will get worse very shortly.

  • veryretired

    The elections in the US in 2012 will be fought out on the streets very much like the turbulence that swept many countries in the 1930′s and 1960′s.

    And, as in the 30′s, I believe we are heading toward a period of extreme political confrontation. I have my own theories as to who will line up with who, and why.

  • Andrew Duffin

    What the social democratic left DOES have, though, is complete ownership of the EU commission and its legislative apparatus, which has complete power over national governments – including the power to extend its own power, once Lisbon is ratified – and is also completely undemocratic, with no means or intention of taking any acount of the views of the ordinary non-political-class people.

    At some point, there will be an explosion.

  • hovis

    @Andrew Duffin: I don’t know which would be more tragic an explosion and all its violent consequences or no reaction at all …

  • lucklucky

    The only think that can save Freedom in Western World are Constitutional limits to Taxes and Debt. Without it we have increasingly Democratic Tiranny.
    The state is already showing their claws and the path is to more opression. Today in some Dictatorships we might have more Freedom than in some Democracies.

  • Laird

    We are already past the tipping point; what we’re going to see over the next few months and years is a steady accelleration of the rate of decline into abject tyranny. I can’t see any other outcome. Constitutional limitations on taxes and debt, as suggested by luckylucky, are not going to happen and, even if they did, would be ignored and ineffectual. Government in general, and the federal government in particular, has amassed too much power to relinquish any of it. A popular uprising would only play into their hands, legitimizing the declaration of martial law, the repeal of the posse comitatus laws, and the centralization of absolute power in Washington. Quiet resistance is no better, as every invented “crisis du jour” (I see that the swine flu fraud is back in the news today) is just one more excuse to usurp the little power remaining to the states and trample the few freedoms retained by the people.

    The result in either case is the rise of a “strong man” and tyranny. I can see no other end game. If we do have the fiction of an election in 2012 it will more closely resemble the “elections” in Russia, Iran or Venezuela than what we have previously known. A new Dark Age is dawning.

  • Is there anywhere where things won’t be so bad?

  • Phillep

    Limiting taxes would help, but the fees for permits and licenses, and the number of, would go up so we need something there.

    Limit government debt? I’m sure they’ll find a way around any such limitation, but it would be a start.

  • Trouble

    Unfortunately this will get worse before it gets better.

    The rise of a “strongman” or “big brother government” in the USA almost certainly would lead to formation of a breakaway republic in the central/southern/southwestern states, perhaps in some sort of partnership with Mexico, which would be politically tricky but win/win in a lot of ways.

    Don’t put it past us: (1) it’s been done before, (2) in our system, the state governors are commanders-in-chief of the National Guard, and (3) the nukes are located in Kansas and Wyoming for the most part.

  • Darrell

    Want to make a libtard’s head explode? Tell them that the Police State will come from the Left, not the Right.

  • doctor of love

    Now now boys. In the winter of 32, the choice in the US was Hoover v. Roosevelt. In the UK Stanley Baldwin v. Ramsay Macdonald in 29 and 36.

    hardly revolutionary.

  • Carol Herman

    For things to erupt in the streets, you’d need the youth willing to turn against “the party in power.” While the donks will be arguing among themselves if they should re-elect Obama, or let Hillary run. Both of whom don’t garner majorities.

    The “slow burn” is occurring among those who lost good jobs and can’t replace them. Finance and mortgages come to mind. You’d need slide-rules to score such fights.

  • Jack Okie

    The Tea Parties are evidence of the beginning radicalization of the producers. The 10th Amendment movement is evidence of a practical (if almost certainly confrontational) way to restore our Constitution. There’s no draft to draw the young into the streets, only looming Big Brother. The availability of the internet, twitter, cell phones, jet travel, etc make efficient decentralization practical. Even the blue states will come to see the advantage of stopping federal encroachment; think how much money California would have (for a while, anyway) if so much wasn’t hoovered up to Washington DC.

    When the time comes, I believe sufficient patriots will put themselves in harms way if that’s what it takes.

  • ALEXISTAN

    I hope you’re right, Okie. Good, old-fashioned zealotry in the name of Liberty is what’s needed. The Beast and its parasite-paladins must be starved of revenue. That means tax strikes. Stockpiling. Even secession. That means a “go” code, too, so we all know when it’s time. It’s well worth it, because the list of grievances in the Declaration of Independence still obtains. The chances of us melting down buried lunar or martian ice for drinking water in this lifetime are slim. Once America’s gone, we’re all out of planet. To answer that last question: Yes. All we need is posse comitatus to go along with the swine flu vaccinations, another big-time economic shock, or a nuclear exchange somewhere not far from ancient Susa, and we’re there.

  • facteurcheval

    As far as I am concerned (which means a lot, like it or not when living in France) I can’t see any Rosa Luxembourg nor Karl Radek personnalities emerging.
    The “petit théatre” of the French hard left and their Le Pennists fellow creatures of the far right are the great pretenders of the Revolution to come. They would be the first to loose their prerogatives and protected rights when an actual upheaval bursts in society. They hope and pray for it in public but as hidden conservatives, they know better.

  • Mrs. du Toit

    I think there is a hope for a kind of bureaucratic secession of the states. They’re not literally seceding, but adopting a 10th Amendment attitude toward the Feds (as others have suggested above).

    I think the Blue Dogs will prevail, meaning that Democrats won’t lose majorities, but until the Republicans find candidates and restore their small-government principles, they’ll be marginalized.

    There’s still a strong possibility that folks won’t be willing to give up their entitlements. Old folks will grumble and resist cuts in Social Security and medical coverage, farmers will resist cuts in ag welfare, and the lower middle class will resist paying any taxes at all. If those groups continue to resist cuts or elimination of benefits, the collapse will have to be catastrophic before it gets any attention… probably in a 3-5 year window.

    The attention will continue to focus on finding scapegoats to avoid “entitlements for me but not for thee” being reduced. I fully expect to see border closing type political entities popping up, and a total elimination of welfare/medical benefits to illegals and even legal residents–long before folks are willing to see their own benefits cut. That will tend to shift people to political extremes in the John Bircher/closed border nationalistic bent. Nationalism (not Patriotism) will be the new Black.

  • Andy

    Lots of pessimists in here acting defeated and broken.

    That’s a pity, as the battle is far from over.

  • It is extremely likely that we will get to relearn a lesson that we should have never forgotten. The world is a dangerous place and life is extremely dangerous in general.

    We are getting ready to find out just how awful things can be in the United States. I don’t suspect that a lot of folks are going to have very charitable feelings towards the fools and charlatans that brought us to such a terrible state of affairs.

    If I were a politician, professor, news media personality, or any other of the sundry statists who have robbed the producers of their sweat I would be planning on moving.

  • Laird

    OK, Andy, please share with us some of the reasons for your optimism. Show us some light at the end of the tunnel which isn’t an oncoming train! I’m more than willing to be cheered up.

  • Paul Marks

    There are two layers to this matter:

    Firstly the fiscal and monetary “stimulus” policy (basically an increase in government spending, and an increase in the amount of money produced by Central Banks – which is used to buy the debt of politically favoured corporations and so on) has indeed made the downturn less severe than it otherwise would have been – AT THE PRICE OF MAKING THINGS EVEN WORSE IN THE LONGER RUN (as the capital structure of the economy will be further distorted).

    This layer adds strength to Philip Chaston’s argument – in that the worst is yet come, and the public will discover they have been lied to about how good times are going to come back.

    However, what POLITICAL effect this has depends on what people blame for the crises.

    If the blame “capitalism” or “the rich” then the left benefit – if they blame statism (the general Central Bank increase in the money supply and the specific regulations and other political pressure that pushed this increase in the money supply into the housing bubble – where its effects where particularly toxic) then the left are hit very badly indeed.

    Either way the “centre” is finished. The mixed economy, Welfare State, credit bubble economy is “unsustainable” (to use Barack Obama’s new favourate word). The House Divided can not stand – it will either become the socialist state that Obama and co crave, or we will move towards a much more free (civil) society.

    It really is as stark as that – and it depends (in the end) on “public opinion”.

    That is why such books as Thomas Woods “Meltdown” and Thomas Sowell’s “Housing: Boom and Bust” are so important.

    And, yes, why such television and radio shows as the “Glenn Beck” show are so important.

    Without such things (and television and radio are still more important than the internet for spreading the word about books) are chances of victory would be much less.

    And remember with the collapse of the “centre” (and this collapse is comming – it will come when the fiscal and monetary policies used to stave off some of the effects of the bust lead to much worse conditions in a year or so) a “draw” is no longer possible.

    We really are facing victory or defeat – and defeat would mean a new Dark Age.

    So we had better work for victory.

  • mike

    “The 10th Amendment movement is evidence of a practical (if almost certainly confrontational) way to restore our Constitution*.”

    This is the trouble with so many of you Yanks – you go on and on about restoring your bloody Constitution as if that would skip you away to a magical land of liberty and flute-players.

    Do you not realize that your much vaunted Constitution – far from limiting government – has been the very thing that has allowed your government to grow so big and despotic in the first place? The problems we face aren’t going to be solved by “restoring the Constitution”.

    *LeFevre frequently uses the term “infer” instead of “imply” – which is annoying, but it might raise a few eyebrows for some on here.

  • mike: the Constitution is the bedrock and foundation of the United States, and the basis of its social contract and legitimacy of its government.

    You must remember that the USA was set up specifically as a secular nation, so religion cannot be the basis for any kind of ‘unity’. The US is a melting-pot society, so ethnicity will not cut it either. It is a Republic, hence there is no monarch or other figurehead to rally around. Heck, it is not even 250 years old, so ‘tradition’ is a laughable concept. Compare the West Coast with Mid-America and tell me that culture is their commonality, if you can.

    What holds the USA together, and what truly keeps the country from fracturing into 50 squabbling nation-states, is the people’s belief in the USA as a dream and a reality worth preserving, and this is made concrete in the Constitution. Note that the military, as well as the political leaders of the USA swear to uphold the Constitution, and citizens swear allegiance to the Constitution.

    No, it is far from perfect, and it is definitely – from the viewpoint of a non-Yank – a fairly stupid thing to make the symbol of your country, but for good or ill, the Constitution of the United States is the United States. Or at least the concept of the USA.

    Nor is it correct to state that it is what allowed the government to become big. *That* was done entirely by the people who allowed the New Deal to happen.

  • mike

    “mike: the Constitution is the bedrock and foundation of the United States…”

    It is the foundation of the United States government. The spirit of the American Revolution was characterized better in Jefferson’s writing.

    “…the basis of its social contract and legitimacy of its government.”

    I’m with Patrick Henry on that.

    “You must remember that the USA was set up specifically as a secular nation, so religion cannot be the basis for any kind of ‘unity’.”

    Why has “unity” got to do with anything? There was a need for some form of defensive organisation for sure, but I won’t buy into this airy-fairy “unity” lark.

    “What holds the USA together, and what truly keeps the country from fracturing into 50 squabbling nation-states, is the people’s belief in the USA as a dream and a reality worth preserving, and this is made concrete in the Constitution.”

    Nonsense. In what sense is the USA “together” today? There is, as Paul Marks says, no longer any political center ground. You are already in the early stages of civil war whether you like it or not so don’t give me that “togetherness” tripe.

    “Note that the military, as well as the political leaders of the USA swear to uphold the Constitution, and citizens swear allegiance to the Constitution.”

    Duly noted. It rather emboldens my point as to how great the problem is since restoring the Constitution is not the answer.

    “…the Constitution of the United States is the United States. Or at least the concept of the USA.”

    No it isn’t. It isn’t even close to being a distinguishing feature of American culture. For that you need to look for the exploits of chaps like Patrick Henry, Thomas Paine and Ethan Allen.

    “Nor is it correct to state that it is what allowed the government to become big. *That* was done entirely by the people who allowed the New Deal to happen.”

    Look man, FDR wasn’t President in 1913, for example.

    You know what? Fuggeddaboudid…

  • Paul Marks

    I agree with Mike that the United States Constitution gives government too much power – for example the power given to the Congress to have a “post office” and to build “post roads”.

    However, to say it is the Constitution that has let the United States government grow to the size it has is B.S.

    Nations that do not have written Constitutions (such as Britain) have seen just as much (or more) growth of government.

    What has let government grow so much in the United States is not the Constitution (the vast majority of things that the U.S. government does are not constitutional) but the LACK OF ENFORCEMENT of the Constitution.

    Where Mike would have a point would be if he said “the pro liberty spirit is betrayed by entrusting the Constitution to a group of judges selected by the government itself”.

    The Constitution of the United States is only a few pages long and is not written in wildly complicated language.

    So no reason not to leave judgement on whether a government action is constitutional or not, to a JURY.

    Let 12 randomly selected citizens read the Constitution for each case (each time a different jury) and let them hear the arguments on both sides of each case.

    No secular “priesthood” of judges required for this task.

  • mike

    “I agree with Mike that the United States Constitution gives government too much power…. However, to say it is the Constitution that has let the United States government grow to the size it has is B.S.”

    The Constitution contains enormous concessions to the principle of State power; the vague nature of some of the powers granted in Article 1 Section 8 is ample demonstration of this:

    “To borrow Money on the credit of the United States”

    “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States…”

    “What has let government grow so much in the United States is not the Constitution (the vast majority of things that the U.S. government does are not constitutional) but the LACK OF ENFORCEMENT of the Constitution.”

    Pardon me Mr Marks, but the growth of the U.S. government did not occur due to those two powers mentioned above not being enforced.

  • The Band

    The Constitution contains enormous concessions to the principle of State power; the vague nature of some of the powers granted in Article 1 Section 8 is ample demonstration of this

    These powers were not vague in 1789 and were formulated as a response to real problems in inter-state relations. They have been (intentionally) misinterpreted and reinterpreted by later generations to further goals of consolidating power. Abraham Lincoln is the canonical example, though some go too far in demonizing him.

    Pardon me Mr Marks, but the growth of the U.S. government did not occur due to those two powers mentioned above not being enforced.

    This may be a misunderstanding of what we mean by “enforcement.” Enforcement of these powers (and those powers granted to the Executive and Judicial branches) means limiting the government to those powers explicitly granted and not allowing it to overstep the bounds that the people themselves had set. This is the reason the Federalists saw no need for the Bill of Rights. They saw the limitations as redundant, since the grants of power themselves were meant to be limiting.

  • mike

    “These powers were not vague in 1789 and were formulated as a response to real problems in inter-state relations.”

    Let’s take an example: “provide for the General Welfare”.
    What was not vague about that in 1787? How is that phrasing so clear and specific as to make today’s SSA (40% of government expenditure?) unconstitutional for example?

    “They saw the limitations as redundant, since the grants of power themselves were meant to be limiting.”

    Right – that governments were instituted among men to guarantee their natural rights, this was all “self-evident” to Hamilton, Madison and others.

    Yet it wasn’t self-evident to the generations to come, and the vague language in which they expressed the powers granted to the government left the door wide open to abuse.

    Yes, the Constitution was and is a large part of the problem – any movement to “restore” it as a means of securing individual freedom would be misguided.

  • Mike, the word ‘welfare’ is a classic example of Newspeak: at the time the constitution was written, this word meant something very different from what it means now.

    As to your general point, in hindsight you probably are right though in that any document that as much as acknowledges the need for the existence of government is bound to be abused and misinterpreted for the purpose of expanding its power.

  • mike

    Alisa: The Old English meaning of “welfare” is still commonly used today and that is precisely the sense in which I understand the term as it appears in the Constitution. The difficulty with the use of this term in the Constitution is that its’ referents aren’t made clear – presumably, it was thought that this would be something for Congress to decide upon petition from the people.

    “…you probably are right though in that any document that as much as acknowledges the need for the existence of government is bound to be abused and misinterpreted for the purpose of expanding its power.”

    You know what? As much as he has been disparaged as a mad proto-Nazi, Nietzsche’s basic “thesis” – that different people seek different forms of power – ought to serve as a warning to any libertarian interested in creating institutions of government. Merely proclaiming a set of “limitations” is never going to be good enough, so long as the underlying principles are conceded. This is where we start again on the slippery slope.

  • Paul Marks

    Mike the full quote (as you, I suspect, know well) is “the common defence and general welfare”.

    It is the PURPOSE of the specific powers granted to the Congress in Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution of the United States.

    The Founders gave the Congress far too much power (and they may have had base motives for that – as you claim), for example they gave the Congress the power to run a “post office” and build “post roads” (both very corrupt powers indeed).

    However, the idea that there is a “general welfare spending power” allowing the Congress to spend money on anything it feels is for “the general welfare” is B.S.

    Sure you can find a few (very corrupt and/or power mad) people who believed in a power to spend money on anything the Congress declared was for “the general welfare” from early times – but it only became a general view in the 1930′s and 1940′s.

    It is a wilful misreading of the text – just like the other misreading interpreting “regulate interstate commerce” to cover commerce within a State (even down to food a person grows to eat himself).

    That the words “general welfare” and “regulate…… commerce” have been taken wildly out of context by certain politicians and a corrupt (or cowardly) Supreme Court, does not mean that you should follow their example. I rather suspect that you despise these people as much as I do.

  • mike

    Mr Marks:

    First: I did not and have not claimed that the motives of the Federalists were base. I argue that their designs were mistaken. I am quite prepared to believe that Hamilton, Madison et al were sincere when they talked about freedom.

    Second: Yes I know the full text of Article 1 Section 8:

    “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States…”

    The opening words to Section 8 quoted above make it clear that the government will have the “power to… provide for the… general welfare.” The “general welfare” is one of the subordinate objects in an enumerated list of such, pertaining to the primary object of “power”.

    Now whilst it is possible to interpret these words to the effect that “defence” and “general welfare” are the purposes for which the powers of “laying and collecting taxes” are granted, I do not see that it makes much difference to my point. In the case of the SSA, it could be argued that the government collects taxes for the purpose of “providing for the general welfare” and that therefore the SSA is fully constitutional. The term “general welfare” is vague and has no referents attached to it in that passage – and you can bugger off with your claim that this is bullshit. No it bloody well isn’t. It is a mistake (though I am quite prepared to accept it is an honest one) in the designs of the Federalists, however much you or I might not like it.

    Third: Much of your defence of the Constitution seems to rely on the libertarian lay of the ideological land in the years during and after the Revolution. As you say:

    “Sure you can find a few (very corrupt and/or power mad) people who believed in a power to spend money on anything the Congress declared was for “the general welfare” from early times – but it only became a general view in the 1930′s and 1940′s.”

    I agree, but it is hopelessly naive (at best) to somehow believe that “the general view” on such matters as what constitutes “welfare” would not change down the years. Such contextual parameters were not fully spelled out in the Constitution itself – I say this was a mistake. Of course, had Hamilton and his mates done this, it would, in and of itself, still have been no guarantee against future abuses. They could not have foreseen the events of 1917 for example and what it would mean for the future of their United States government to have horrors like Harry Hopkins poking around inside it. Yet this is why full articulation of the principles that provide the restricting context of any power granted (or purpose defined) ought to have been spelled out. As I said – they all thought it was “self-evident”.

    “I rather suspect that you despise these people as much as I do.”

    Just what have I done to deserve such an insult? Of course I despise the bloody judges and politicians. I’d like to go the whole Kafiristan on them and play stick ‘n ball with their severed heads if I could get away with it.

  • Mike, I think it is rather pointless arguing about this or that word or phrase, because ultimately words are subject to interpretation, based on the underlying principle of the document in question. And the underlying principle of the US constitution is that the government shall have power. In other words, I think I am agreeing with your original point. I used to think myself a minarchist, but as the time passes I am beginning to see this position as untenable in principle.

  • mike

    Well since this post has fallen off into the archives now, it might be that you never see this Alisa, but I’ll pop a short response anyway.

    If it is pointless to argue the interpretation of certain words and phrases, then we’re really in the sh*t. Why bother with a written constitution at all? Hell why bother with laws? Then again – and with the anarchy-minarchy question in mind – I think a certain aphorism from Nietzsche is appropriate:

    “I favor any skepsis to which I may reply: “Let us try it!” But I no longer wish to hear anything of all those things and questions that do not permit any experiment. This is the limit of my “truthfulness”: for there courage has lost its right.”

  • I’m still here, Mike. Words do have meanings, and their importance cannot be dismissed, but this rather goes to reinforce my point above, which is that this very importance is the reason why there will always be people willing to manipulate language to suit their own interests*. Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent this without violating the principle of freedom of speech.

    Why bother with a written constitution at all? Hell why bother with laws?

    Good point. This is why I am increasingly leaning in favor of less laws, and more mutual agreements, between individuals/groups: let people act according to their *interests to begin with. It will not give us a perfect society – far from it, but at least it will be a much more honest one.

  • mike

    “This is why I am increasingly leaning in favor of less laws, and more mutual agreements, between individuals/groups: let people act according to their interests to begin with.”

    I am not “increasingly leaning in favour of less laws and more mutual agreements”: I see such freely-made agreements as the only ethically valid forms of social cooperation.

    But, with Nietzsche, I’m not going to be satisfied with just talking about this – I want to live it.

    It occurs to me that it is the quality of directness in attempts to either design or confront State institutions that has been, and will continue to be, the source of so much wasted effort. In creating a constitution, for example, there is the impossibility of guarding against future abuse. In directly confronting a State comprising ethically rotten people there is the danger of annihilation, a la Tiananmen Square.

    Tactical efforts at frustrating either the formation, exercise, or growth of State powers are my locus of action together with articulation of the principles which unite these efforts. Discussions of how an anarchist or minarchist society would work, or which one is better and why, are not a productive use of my time. Destruction is the aim of my actions (in for example my letters to the Taipei Times), not creation; the destructive work necessary is so great that it might easily exceed my lifetime. But it is not random destruction – it is destruction prioritized according to principles. I am however, only just getting started.

  • Indeed.

    But now to the really important question: was the Queen snoring?:-P

  • mike

    Ha!

    Honestly, that wasn’t me!